Heartbeat abortion bill set for floor vote in Ohio House

State lawmakers this week are expected to move closer to adopting one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation when the fetal heartbeat bill gets a floor vote in the Ohio House.

The House Health Committee on Tuesday voted 11-7 in favor of the bill, which cleared the full Senate on a 19-13 vote on March 13.

Ohio is among about a dozen states seeking to ban abortions once a heartbeat can be detected.

“We going to keep hearts beating. It’s a long time coming,” said Janet Porter of Faith2Action, who has been pushing the idea for nearly a decade in Ohio.

Senate Bill 23 would prohibit doctors from performing abortions once a heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation before women may know they are pregnant. It contains an exception for cases in which the life of the mother is at risk but no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. In 2017, there were 20,893 abortions in Ohio.

RELATED: Heartbeat abortion bill re-introduced by lawmakers

Doctors who provide abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected could be convicted of a fifth degree felony and could face a fine of up to $20,000 from the State Medical Board of Ohio.

Doctors would be required to use standard medical methods, listed by the Ohio Department of Health, to detect heartbeats. NARAL ProChoice Ohio, which opposes the bill, said that physicians would be forced to use transvaginal ultrasounds but Ohio Right to Life, which supports it, says the current detection technology would be either abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound.

Amendments offered by Democrats were defeated, including ones to require the state provide vouchers for child care and public transit for new mothers, mandate that the state attorney general’s office track the costs of defending the abortion restriction laws in court and require comprehensive sex education be taught in Ohio schools.

State Rep. Michele LePore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said lawmakers forcing their morality on others won’t stop woman from getting unsafe illegal abortions.

Among House Health Committee members supporting the bill are: Niraj Antani, Jim Butler, Sara Carruthers, Candice Keller, Scott Lipps and Phil Plummer.

Keller, a Middletown Republican, who has led an anti-abortion non-profit, said that the abortion industry makes millions of dollars off of women.

“The abortionist is in control. The abortionist owns the womb and as a woman, I resent that. It is the most abusive, exploitative, sexist act because 95 percent of abortionists are men and all the clients are women,” she said.

Keller described the heartbeat bill as compassionate legislation that will save lives.

The committee vote came after hearing from 87 witnesses over five hearings, according to Health Committee Chairman Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Twp.

The bill is vehemently opposed by reproductive rights groups and Democrats and strenuously supported by anti-abortion groups such as Faith2Action and Ohio Right to Life.

The House is slated to hold a floor vote on the measure Wednesday. Differences between the House and Senate versions must be reconciled before the final version is sent to Gov. Mike DeWine, who has said he would sign a heartbeat abortion ban bill.

Related: Kasich vetoes ‘heartbeat bill’, signs 20-week abortion ban

Related: Ohio Senate short 1 vote to override Kasich veto of ‘heartbeat bill’

Conservatives are working on more abortion restrictions:

House Bill 90, sponsored by state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, would require state officials to develop "an unborn child's humanity instructional program" that includes 18 stages of fetal development, lists of available prenatal health services and maternal behaviors helpful to an unborn fetus, according to a Legislative Service Commission analysis.

The bill is pending in the House Health Committee where it has had two hearings.

House Bill 182, sponsored by state Rep. John Becker, R-Cincinnati, would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions, other than those needed to save the life of the mother. The bill is pending in the House Insurance Committee.

Senate Bill 27, which cleared the Ohio Senate on a 24-7 vote on March 27, would make it a first-degree misdemeanor for abortion clinics to dispose of fetal remains through any means except cremation or interment. It grants the mother the right to determine final disposition, requires her decision be documented in her medical records and mandates the clinic cover the cost. It is now pending in the House Health Committee.

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